June 16, 2016

Australian Catholic organisations say no to fossil fuels, marking anniversary of Pope’s encyclical

SYDNEY, 16th June: Four Australian Catholic organisations have today announced that they are selling their investments in coal, oil and gas companies, with more to follow as the moral case against the fossil fuel industry continues to build.

The decision by the Marist Sisters Australia, Presentation Congregation Queensland, Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga, and The Passionists – Holy Spirit Province Australia, to abandon fossil fuels comes on the anniversary of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si, where he outlined the case for environmental action by Catholics.

In it, the Pope said that: We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – has to be progressively replaced without delay.

Today’s announcement is part of the Laudato Si week, where Catholic organisations across the world are engaged in a series of discussions around their role in caring for the planet and tackling climate change. More Australian Catholic organisations are expected to divest by the Feast of St Francis, in October.

ARRCC, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, is concurrently releasing an open letter calling on those in public office, in the lead-up to the election, to hear the wake-up call which is the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef. Prominent leaders in a range of faith traditions are calling for more robust policies to transition Australia much more rapidly away from fossil fuels.

“We recognise our need to engage in respectful and transformative relationships with the whole community of life. For many years Queensland Presentation Sisters have excluded any investment in our portfolio held with companies primarily associated with fossil fuels, uranium mining and environmental degradation. This is a key part of the way we engage in God’s mission, especially at a time when the challenge to address global warming is so urgent,” said Sister Marlette Black PBVM, Congregational Leader, Presentation Congregation Queensland

“For some years now our Passionist Congregation has been aware of the need for our communities and ministries to be far more ecologically responsible. Pope Francis, in his Laudato Si, crystallised for us the level of responsibility we need to take as a Congregation, the urgency for action ever more apparent.  So we Trustees of the Passionists took the decision to begin diverting our investments from fossil fuel extractive industries and into renewable energy. We believe the Gospel asks no less of us,” said Father Thomas McDonough CP, Provincial of The Passionists – Holy Spirit Province Australia, NZ, PNG.

“Marist Sisters in Australia are working towards divesting from fossil fuels.  Dependence on fossil fuels is contributing to adverse climate change which affects everyone but especially the poor and vulnerable. In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls on us to reduce carbon emissions and develop sources of renewal energy. Divesting of fossil fuels is one way that we can be stewards of God’s gift of creation so that life in all its forms can be sustained now and into the future.” said Sister Catherine Lacey SM, Congregation Leader, Marist Sisters, Australia.

“We made the decision to align our investments with projects that reflect our values and understanding of the importance of caring for creation. The decisions are made after much careful consideration and in the knowledge that our decision won’t change things overnight – this is a long term investment in the earth’s future,” said Sister Anne Lane PBVM, Leader of the Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga.

“The Religious Congregations are leading the way for other Catholic organisations to publicly divest. I congratulate them for their courage and moral vision. Pope Francis drew the world’s attention to the ‘urgent challenge to protect our common home’ (para. 13). His encyclical was a call for Governments, organisations, businesses and individuals to do all they can to help prevent climate disruption from becoming climate catastrophe.” said Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

“It is fantastic to see Catholic organisations standing up and building the moral case against the fossil fuel industry. Having one of the world’s leading religions actively say the era of fossil fuels is over shows just how far we have come. We know this is an industry of the past that is polluting the planet and devastating communities, and we are going to see more religious – and non religious – organisations come out to oppose it,” said Charlie Wood, Campaigns Director, 350.org Australia

In committing to divest, these organisations join over 530 institutions globally, representing over $3.4 trillion in funds under management. They include the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Stanford and Oxford Universities, the Australian Capital Territory, the City of Newcastle and the Royal Australian College of Physicians.

Media Enquiries:

Thea Ormerod – ARRCC – 0405 293 466

Lou Fraser – 350.org – 0438 993 068